As a small-business owner, generating revenue is your responsibility, so along with all the other challenges you face in business, you also have to invest time and effort into securing clients. One way to drum up new business is to deliver an effective elevator pitch — a 30- to 60-second speech that compels prospective clients to learn more about your business.
It might seem like an old school idea, but spend time creating the best elevator pitch possible, and you’ll find that it pays dividends. Land clients, tap into new markets and build wealth — using other people’s money.
Make a List of Information You Want to Convey
If you want to sell people on your business, you’ll have to start by telling them about yourself. Write down the 10 most important things that you want someone to know about you. Think about what makes you stand out from other people in your field.
Focus on the most attention-grabbing facts about yourself, what you do and what you’ve achieved. For example: “I hold eight of the most in-demand IT security certifications currently offered.”
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Organize Your List
Use a spreadsheet or notepad to organize your list into categories like these:
- Skills, abilities and achievements that make me stand out
- What I do in my job
- How I get things done
- Why I get things done
Use items from your list to create sentences to answer each category. For example, under “What I do in my job,” you could write, “I design, implement and manage top-of-the-line cybersecurity programs.”
Then, organize all of your sentences into a logical order that would make for a good elevator pitch.
If you need help knowing what a good speech sounds like, you might want to consider going online to listen to some elevator pitch examples.
Add an Attention-Getter or Hook
Think of something interesting, such as a statistic or fact, that you can use to immediately grab your target audience’s attention before launching into your pitch.
For example, if you’re an IT security professional, you could say, “Did you know that 73 percent of companies that suffer a data breach don’t know why?”
By using an attention-getter, you can gain the focus of the person and improve your chances of delivering an effective pitch.
Make It Concise
When writing an elevator pitch, ensure your words are well-written and have a clear sense of purpose. If something you’ve written doesn’t add any value to your pitch, get rid of it and replace it with something more compelling if appropriate.
Wrong: “I enjoy doing my job because I like solving problems and keeping IT systems safe.”
Right: “I have a passion for designing cybersecurity systems that effectively shut down threats.”
Invest Time in Practicing Your Pitch
Set a timer for 30 to 60 seconds right before you begin your pitch and see if you can finish within the time frame. Although you might not actually have to deliver your pitch under the time constraints of an elevator ride, you should be prepared and capable of giving a concise and persuasive speech should the opportunity present itself. Aim for a 30-second elevator pitch if possible.
Ask for Feedback
When you’re trying to perfect your pitch, it can be helpful to draw from someone else’s perspective. Deliver your pitch to friends or family members who can remain objective.
Ask them for constructive criticism to help make your pitch the best it can be. Ask if it was clear, if it made sense, if they felt you made good eye contact and if it was compelling.
It’s also helpful to ask a friend or family member to pretend to be your target audience as you deliver your pitch.
The more you practice your pitch, the less chance there is that you will ramble. But here are some other ways to prevent yourself from going off on a tangent:
- Take a deep breath before beginning. This will help you overcome nervousness and excitement so that you can focus.
- Slow down the tempo of your speech.
- Visualize the person you’re talking to as someone familiar — someone just close enough, who wouldn’t judge you harshly (e.g., a neighbor, a teacher, etc.).
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Don't Speak in a Monotone
If you go over your elevator speech countless times, you might be so focused on the words that you neglect the delivery. Unfortunately, even the most well-written pitch won’t prove effective if you speak in a robotic tone.
During practice, monitor the tone and energy level you’re projecting, and adjust it to become more pleasant and enthusiastic if needed.
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Don't Throw Jargon Around
Even though using jargon can work well when pitching to someone who is familiar with your industry, it can fail with others. During your elevator speech, you want to be as clear as possible and jargon can be confusing — so just leave it out.
Don't Speak Too Fast
It’s true that you only have a brief window of time to present your pitch, but don’t fall victim to speaking too fast. Not only will the listener have trouble absorbing your message, he or she might not even be able to understand what you’re trying to say.
When practicing, mentally force yourself to slow down whenever you start speaking too quickly.
Once you’ve honed the content of your pitch and practiced it countless times, it’s time to record yourself delivering it. This can feel awkward, but it’s one of the most crucial elevator pitch tips to heed.
Once you’ve recorded yourself, play your video back and see how it sounds. Does it flow well or are you tripping over your words? Ask yourself if you’ve delivered a pitch that would make you want to learn more or take action. If not, revise until it has the intended impact and flows well.
Make Eye Contact
Watching your recording might clue you in to your physical habits as well. It’s important, for instance, to make eye contact when delivering your pitch. Being able to meet someone’s gaze when talking to them conveys that you are interested in the conversation and you are confident in what you are saying.
To practice, look in a mirror while pitching and practice holding your own gaze for three to four seconds at a time before momentarily breaking eye contact. Try this with the camera lens as well when you’re recording.
Don't Make Distracting Faces or Gestures
If you happen to have a habit of frowning or furrowing your brow when your nervous or waving your hands around wildly, you’ll need to curb those habits, too.
Be aware when these things happen and mentally tell yourself to stop when they do until your habit is under control.
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Be Prepared to Answer Questions
Once you’ve got your speech down, it’s time to think next steps. After delivering a successful pitch and gaining your target audience’s attention, the person might have some questions for you.
Make a list of potential questions ahead of time that someone might ask you in response to your pitch. Then, prepare answers so you won’t be caught off guard.
Ask for a Follow-Up
After pitching, rather than handing the person your business card and walking away, be more proactive. Ask the person if they would be interested in having you email them a resume and get their email address.
Or pose a question that encourages them to take the next step: “I’d like to have the opportunity to discuss this further with you, what’s the best way to get on your calendar?”
Click through to learn how you can sell anything to anyone using these tips from veteran salespeople.
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About the Author
Cynthia Measom is a Texas-based writer specializing in finance, business, parenting and education. With almost a decade of online writing experience, her work has appeared on websites such as Chron.com, The Bump and The Motley Fool. Measom received a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Texas at Austin.